From Melbourne to Canberra via the highest point of Australia (20.1.-7.2.)
Back in Melbourne
We spent two nights at Prue and Mark’s again and during that time visited Valma and Mark, who we met in WA and who also invited us. It was a pleasant meeting after a couple of months. We had a great time in Melbourne and it was difficult to leave, but there was still a long way before us.
Sand statues in Frankston
From Melbourne, we headed south to Frankston to watch the sand statues exhibition together with Ildigo, Danny and their little son Lorenzo (friends from the Tasmanian farm). The theme of the exhibition was fairy tales. We could see large sand Snow-white, Little Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland and other famous characters. Everything was carved with precision in every detail. Amazing job. We stayed overnight at the Czech immigrant Pavel Kulkus, who lived nearby. Pavel is also a keen traveller. He rode his bike in Asia, Europe, Australia and other places. We were happy to exchange our stories from our trips.
Large spider on the road
We rode through the coal mining region with a lot of thermal power stations, where Katherine and Lachlan who we met in the Cradle Mountain came from. The road was busy, not very good for cycling. I stopped suddenly, because I saw a huge spider on the road. “Have you seen this?” I asked Martin. “What?” he responded. “The large spider”, I said. We returned to check it. There it was, about 8-10 cm long. It looked alive and scary, but it was not moving. Martin wanted to poke it, but I told him to take a picture of it first. He slowly and carefully put the camera next to it using macro mode. Then, he tried to push it with a stick. No reaction. He must have been dead and dried. Martin turned him on his back, looked at it closely and read “Made in China”! We burst out laughing. If you don’t believe, visit us and we will show it to you, we have taken it as a souvenir.
Meeting George again
Hard to believe, but after 6000 km and 3 months, we met the British cyclist George for the second time. First time, we met him near Esperance in WA. George was 59 and had been cycling for a couple of years. He called himself cyclotramp. He smoked 50-100 cigarettes daily and yet easily made 100-150 km a day. We stayed together one night, had a breakfast together the following morning and then we parted just to meet again by accident a couple of days later in the War Memorial in Canberra. The world is really so small.
New South Wales, on the way to the Snowy Mountains
After cycling on a 100 km long cycle trail, which was very relieving, because we finally got away from the busy roads, we got to Cann River. From Cann River, we gradually ascended north to a plateau, where it was a bit colder. We left Victoria and entered New South Wales.
In the town of Bombala, we looked for a Czech postman. We knew from Pavel Kulkus that he used to work there. We asked in the local pub, but no one knew about him, strange as it was a very small town with only one post office. One young drunk Aussie guy got onto my bike and didn’t want get off. I couldn’t let him have a ride because he was just too drunk and I was worried that he would fall and break my bike. We kept searching for John, the postman. We were lucky to ask the right person, the local vet who was just mowing his garden. He called John, who came in a while and took us to his farm, 25 km form the town surrounded by green hills. We spent a night there relaxing and chatting to John and his wife Eva.
The following day, we took up a shortcut on dirt to the Snowy Mountains. We enjoyed the landscape we rode through, no cars, granite boulders scattered everywhere, beautiful sunset and wilderness. We camped in the mountain town called Dalgety. In the morning, we watched a fleet of cars and people in smart clothes. We learned that one important farmer had died and everyone from close and remote vicinity was heading for the funeral.
We had a very steep hill on the way to Jindabyne, a sports resort on the foot of the Snowy Mountain.
Riding on the top of Australia, Mount Kosciuszko 2228 m
Two of our tyres were completely worn out and we needed new ones. In Jindabyne, they didn’t have the ones we wanted, but we got two used ones for free from the bike shop. One of them blew up on my bike only 10 km later. Luckily, we kept the former one.
From Jindabyne, it was mostly uphill. We ascended to Perisher, a skiing resort and continued to climb up Charlotte Pass, where the bitumen finished in about the height of 1850 m. We had to continue another 8 km on dirt, but the ascend was not very steep. At Seaman’s hut (3 km below the top), the road became steeper. We had to get off the bikes at Rawson’s Pass (about 2150 m), because it was prohibited to ride the bike the last 1,5 km and there were rangers working. We walked with the bikes past the rangers and when we got out of their sight (after about 200 m) we got on the bikes again and rode to the very top of Mount Kosciuszko. We were the only people on the summit, it was about 5 pm and we decided to put up our tent there for the night. The views were beautiful and we started to cook our dinner, packed risotto as usual lately. We watched a thunderstorm getting closer and closer. Camping on the highest point of Australia in a thunderstorm was not what we wanted to experience, so we decided to descend to the Seaman’s hut (2030 m). I was so happy that the hut was there. The natural drama started in a while after we arrived there. Dark heavy clouds covered the sky, cords of water were pouring down and we watched hundreds of lightings illuminating the horizon in all directions. Very powerful and spectacular. Had we stayed on the top, if not dying of being hit by a flash, I would have died of fear.
Alpine Road in Snowy Mountains – Does anyone say that there are no hills in Australia?
Since we both like mountains, we decided to cycle the circular Alpine road. We were warned that it was very hilly and I can confirm it. It was not that bad from Jindabyne to Threadbo, the popular Australian skiing resort. The Czech immigrants greatly contributed to the development of this place, the evidence of which is the Czech names of the local houses, e.g. Sněžník. Then, we continued to Khancoban. It was up, then a long way down and then up and down and more up and up and finally down, all very steep and we advanced slowly, but the day and the scenery were beautiful, so we did not mind. The following two days were even harder and more strenuous. It was, except for one bit, all the way up until we reached the highest town in Australia - Cabramurra 1488 m. Bad weather started to chase us up there. We waited for a short storm to pass not knowing what was coming later. After about 20 km, we were caught up by another one, this time really torrential and with lightning. Ooooh. There was nowhere to hide, so we got completely soaked wet. It was getting dark when we arrived at Adaminaby. It was still raining heavily and we did not know where to stay overnight in this unpleasant weather. We were circulating in the town not knowing what to do. Finally, we got to the Bowling Club, where we saw a big shelter. The people inside the pub let us not only put up our tent under the shelter, but also have a shower inside. What a relief!
The day when almost nothing worked out until we were saved late in the evening
There were two options how to get to Canberra from Adaminaby, either 170 km on bitumen or 105 km via national park Namadgi, 40 km of which was dirt. We wanted to make it in one day, so we opted for the shorter route. It kept raining, how unusual for Australia. We put on the wet clothes from yesterday and set off. The dirt road was muddy, slippery and hilly. We had to ride very slowly. In the afternoon, almost at the end of the dirt road, I had the first puncture. A few kilometres later, Martin also had a puncture; he found a big hole in the tyre. As he was repairing it, he noticed a bulge and cracked seems on his second tyre. He put a spare old tyre on his front wheel and we continued. In less than 5 km, Martin had another flat tyre. It was pouring, so we wanted to ask at the near solitary house if we could repair the bike at their place. We were greeted by 8 loose Pit-bull Terriers. We jumped close together, bicycles on the outside protecting us and started to scream at the people in the house. Luckily, the owner pacified his dogs before they would go into action. When we repaired the tyre, it was already getting dark. We called our Lithuanian friends in Canberra, whom we met in Cabramurra, that we would be late. They wanted to pick us up, but we refused. We lost so much time patching the tubes and it was still not all. About 20 km before Canberra, Martin had another puncture. Martin changed the tube and as he was pumping it up, it went BANG, the tube blew up and tumble out the tyre. We had no more spare tyres. It was dark, cold and raining. We called our friends again and this time agreed that they would pick us up. In half an hour Min arrived in his small truck. We put all our gear inside and in another half an hour, we were in Canberra. Rasa had prepared dinner for us in the meantime. Good people have not died out yet and we met them in the right time.